You could read all the parenting books, manuals, magazines, and advice columns ever written and learn lots about getting your child to sleep through the night, the most effective way to handle tantrums, tricks to get kids to eat vegetables, or the best methods for treating fevers. But I have yet to see anything that addresses how to go about the rest of your life wearing your heart on the outside of your body.
Last night, we got home from trick-or-treating and Tink came and sat next to me on the couch. Her eyes were a little watery and I could tell she had been crying. She seemed a little subdued earlier in the evening, but I thought all the excitement had finally gotten to her and she was beginning the ugly downward spiral of post-Halloween sugar intoxication.
Me: "What's wrong, Sweets?"
Tink: (as tears begin flowing) "One of my best friends from school is going to a new school. Today was her last day so she won't be there tomorrow. She was so nice and she was never mean to me. I'm going to miss her."
Me: "Did you get her phone number? We can always call her and she can come over to play. You can still see her again."
Tink: "I forgot to get it. And now she's gone."
Me: "We know her last name, so we can look it up. If we can't find it, I'll ask the secretary at school. I'm sure they have her number in a file. We'll figure something out."
This incident by itself is not a big deal. Kids are resilient and "best friends" at that age tend to change with the seasons. I was sad that Tink was upset, but she's 11 and in a couple of weeks this will be a blip on the radar. However, for some reason during this conversation, it hit me LIKE A FREAKING TSUNAMI that there are so many things that could (and will) come her way that I just won't be able to fix. And that sucks. Sometimes I wish I could put my kids in a bubble to protect them from the shit storm that is the world we live in. But I can't. And even if I could, by doing so they would miss out on so many experiences that are truly beautiful.
We're in the pre-teen years and I'm absolutely terrified of what is coming. Teenage girls can be horrible creatures. I was one. And unfortunately, while I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, I remember adolescence. Which seems unfair on so many levels. Anyway...not only will she be one of them, but she'll be around others of her "kind" and it's just a giant calamity of out-of-whack hormones and drama. I'm really looking forward to it.
While the mother/daughter fighting is sure to commence in time, there will also be those times that she comes to me hurting - and I won't be able to fix it. Which is even worse.
Having children is the ultimate paradox. There are no other people on earth that you can love so intensely, want to protect so fiercely, but in a matter of minutes can make you so mad you feel like your head will explode. It is the puzzle that can NEVER be solved. There will always be that one missing piece that got chewed up by the dog or sucked up in the vacuum cleaner.
I laid in bed with Tink last night until she fell asleep. I scratched her back and played with her hair until she drifted off to dream land. For five minutes I made it better. It is comforting, but also truly terrifying to have that kind of power.
Kids should come with labels. WARNING: Your life will never again be your own. Have fun with that.